Library books that go years without getting checked out risk losing their spots on the shelves. That means, in theory, that one insatiable reader could single-handedly save a library’s most vulnerable titles from getting the boot. This was the idea behind Orlando librarian George Dore’s plan to create a card for a fictional alter ego, and now he’s facing real-life trouble from the authorities.
As the Orlando Sentinel reports, “Chuck Finley” checked out 2361 books from the East Lake County Library in the span of nine months in 2016. Named after the 54-year-old former California Angels pitcher, Dore collaborated with a library assistant to devise an address, occupation, and drivers license number for the fake patron. Chuck Finley's reading tastes ranged from classics (Cannery Row by John Steinbeck) to children’s books (Why Do My Ears Pop? by Ann Fullick), and he would often return items within an hour of checking them out. His reading habits boosted the branch’s circulation by 3.9 percent, prompting an investigation.
What may look like an act of heroism to bibliophiles is actually a serious offense in the eyes of the law. According to the inspector general’s report, creating a fake library card in this case "amounts to the creation of a false public record." Despite the deceitful nature of the scheme, Dore insists his intentions were in the right place. Books that the software’s algorithm marks as irrelevant are often bought back by the library after they're taken off shelves. Dore says he was just trying to save the library time and money by keeping these books in circulation. Nonetheless, he’s been placed on paid suspension from his position as branch supervisor, and he could ultimately be fired.
Though Dore’s branch isn’t one of them, several libraries in his county receive funding based on their circulation numbers. This incident has inspired a county-wide investigation into whether there are similar fraud cases in the system.
[h/t Orlando Sentinel]